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Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model (GLEAM)

GLEAM 2.0 - Assessment of greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation potential

Mitigation potentialRegional resultsEmission sourcesEmission intensitiesAggregated emissions

Livestock production by region

Production from livestock supply chains can be expressed as per protein basis, allowing comparisons between species and products. East and Southeast Asia, with about 14 million tonnes of protein, is the region with the highest production, mainly driven by monogastric species. Western Europe, North America and Latin America and the Caribbean have comparable production levels, between 9.5 and 9 million tonnes of protein. The profiles, however, are different: while beef and chicken play the main role in Latin and North America, Western Europe's production is primarily driven by the dairy cattle sector. South Asia is the fifth most important region in terms of production with just above 4 million tonnes of protein. Near East and north Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, Oceania and Russian Federation, with production between 3 and 1.5 million tonnes of protein, have a lower individual share at global scale.

Regional production. Regional total production and their profile by commodity are shown. Meat production in protein basis was calculated by using data on dressing percentages, carcass to bone-free meat and average bone-free meat protein content. Milk from all species was converted into fat and protein corrected milk. Eggs production is also expressed in protein terms.

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Global livestock feed rations

The livestock sector consumes annually about 6 billion tonnes of feed material in dry matter, including one third of global cereal production. 86% of the global livestock feed intake is made of materials that are currently not eaten by humans. In addition, soybean cakes, which production can be considered as main driver or land-use, represent 4% of the global livestock feed intake. Monogastric consume 72% of the global livestock grain intake while grass and leaves represent more than 57% of the ruminants’ intake.



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Emissions from livestock supply chains

The livestock sector is a significant contributor to global human-induced GHG emissions. Livestock supply chains emitted an estimated total of 8.1 gigatonnes CO2-eq in 2010 (using 298 and 34 as global warming potential for N2O and CH4 respectively). Methane (CH4) accounts for about 50 percent of the total. Nitrous oxide (N2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) represent almost equal shares with 24 and 26 percent, respectively.

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Emissions by species

Cattle are the main contributor to the sector's emissions with about 5.0 gigatonnes CO2-eq, which represents about 62 percent of sector's emissions. Beef and dairy cattle generate similar amounts of greenhouse gases. Pigs, poultry, buffaloes and small ruminants have much lower emissions, representing between 7 and 11 percent of sector's emissions.


Global estimates of emissions by species. It includes emissions attributed to edible products and to other goods and services, such as draught power and wool. Beef cattle produce meat and non-edible outputs. Dairy cattle produce milk and meat as well as non-edible outputs.

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Emissions by commodity and emission intensities

Beef meat and cattle milk are the two commodities with the highest total emissions, accounting for 3.0 and 1.6 gigatonnes CO2-eq, respectively. They are followed by chicken meat and eggs with 0.83 gigatonnes CO2-eq, pig meat (0.82 gigatonnes CO2-eq), buffalo meat and milk (0.7 gigatonnes CO2-eq) and small ruminants meat and milk (0.5 gigatonnes CO2-eq). The rest of emissions are allocated to other poultry and non-edible products.

A way to compare the performance of different commodities is to express the emissions in terms on a per protein basis. By doing so, buffalo meat is the commodity with highest emission intensity, with an average of 404 kg CO2-eq per kg of protein, followed by beef meat, with an average of 295 kg CO2-eq per kg of protein. Meat and milk from small ruminants and milk from buffalo present the third, fourth and fifth highest emission intensities among commodities with averages of 201, 148 and 140 kg CO2-eq per kg of protein. Cattle milk, chicken meat and eggs and pork have lower emission intensities, all below 100 kg CO2-eq per kg of protein. Emission intensities vary greatly among producers, especially in ruminant products. This reflects different agro-ecological conditions, farming practices and supply chains management. Is within this gap between high and low emission intensities where opportunities for mitigation can be found.

Global emission intensities by commodity. All commodities are expressed in a per protein basis. Averages are calculated at global scale and represent an aggregated value across different production systems and agro-ecological zones. .


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Emissions by source

Emissions from livestock supply chains originate from four main processes: enteric fermentation, manure management, feed production and energy consumption. GLEAM provides disaggregated information on emissions from those pathways.

Enteric fermentation accounts for the methane generated during the digestive process of ruminants -although non-ruminants species also produce methane when digesting, the amount is much lower. Feed quality is closely correlated with enteric emissions. Poorly digestible rations, i.e. highly fibrous ingredients, yield higher enteric methane emissions.

Manure acts as a source of both methane and nitrous oxide. Methane is released during anaerobic decomposition of organic matter. Nitrous oxide is mainly generated during manure ammonia decomposition. Different manure management systems (MMS) can lead to different emission levels. In general terms, methane emissions are higher when manure is stored and treated in liquid systems (lagoons or ponds), while dry MMS such as drylot or solid systems tend to favor nitrous oxide emissions.

There are several emissions related to feed production. Carbon dioxide emissions arise from expansion of feed crops and pastures into natural areas such as forests, from manufacture of fertilizers and pesticides for feed crops and from feed transportation and processing. Nitrous oxide emissions are caused by the use of nitrogenous fertilizers and by direct application of manure both in pastures and crop fields.

Energy consumption occurs along the entire supply chain. Production of fertilizers and the use of machinery for crop management, harvesting, processing and transport of feed crops generate GHG emissions, which were accounted as part of the emissions from feed production. Energy is also consumed on animal production site for ventilation, illumination, milking, cooling, etc. Finally, livestock commodities are processed, packed and transported to retail points, which involves further energy use.

Enteric fermentation accounts for almost 44 percent of total sector's emissions, with almost 3.5 gigatonnes CO2-eq. Feed production is the second largest source of emissions, with 3.3 gigatonnes CO2-eq or about 41 percent of total emissions. Manure management is responsible for about 10 percent of the total, or 0.8 gigatonnes CO2-eq. Energy consumption, both on-farm and postfarm, account for 0.4 gigatonnes CO2-eq, or nearly 5 percent of the total.

Global emissions by source. Relative contribution of main sources of emissions from global livestock supply chains.

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Livestock emissions by region

Regional emissions and production figures vary widely. Differences are explained by variations on the share of ruminant and monogastric species and emission intensities. GLEAM distinguishes different livestock production systems (LPS), namely grassland, mixed and feedlot for cattle; grassland and mixed for other ruminants; backyard, layers and broiler for chicken and backyard, intermediate and industrial for pigs. It allows a more accurate analysis of feed ration composition, MMS, energy consumption and the implications on GHG emissions.

Latin America and the Caribbean have the highest level of emissions, with 1.9 gigatonnes CO2-eq, caused by the specialized production of beef. Although it has dramatically reduced its pace in the last years, historical land-use changes contributed to high CO2 emissions arising from deforestation and pasture expansion. East and Southeast Asia, with over 1.6 gigatonnes CO2-eq, is the second highest emitting region, followed by South Asia with 1.5 gigatonnes CO2-eq. North America and Western Europe show similar levels of emissions (around 0.6 gigatonnes CO2-eq). Near East and North Africa presents a similar level of emissions as the latter regions, but only less than half of protein production level. Sub-Saharan Africa present comparable emissions figures -about 0.4 gigatonnes CO2-eq, while Eastern Europe, Oceania and Russian Federation share much lower emission levels (between 0.1 and 0.2 gigatonnes CO2-eq).

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Mitigation potential

Emissions reduction from the livestock sector can be achieved by reducing production and consumption, by lowering emission intensity of production, or by a combination of the two. GLEAM does not evaluate the potential of reduced consumption of livestock products. Mitigation potential estimates in GLEAM are based on the wide gap in emission intensities that exists on a global and regional scale and within production systems and agro-ecological regions. The estimation for mitigation is around 30 percent, or about 1.8 gigatonnes CO2-eq, with respect to the baseline scenario. This figure arises from the assumption that producers in a given system, region and agro-ecological zone were to apply the practices of the 10th percentile of producers with the lowest emissions intensities, while maintaining constant output.


Mitigation potential of the global livestock sector. The mitigation potential estimate excludes changes between farming systems and assumes the overall output remains constant.

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